Uttarakhand High Court: Land Vested With State Cannot Be Divested Even if There Are Irregularities

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Excerpt

On 21st December 2020, a Single Judge Bench consisting of Hon’ble Mr Justice Lok Pal Singh heard the case of Yukti Constructions Pvt. Ltd v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors via video conferencing.

The Petitioner in this case had sought for the following reliefs:

Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari quashing the notifications under Sec 4 (Publication of preliminary notification and powers of officers) and Sec 6 (Declaration that land is required for a public purpose) of the Land Acquisition Act.

Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus directing the respondents not to deprive the Petitioner of plots situated in Village Rikholi, Pargana Pachwadun, Tehsil and District Dehradun.

Facts of the Case

A notification was issued by the Respondents/State under Section 4(1) (Publication of preliminary notification) read with sections 17(1) and 17(4) (Special powers in case of urgency) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 to the petitioner, proposing to acquire 172.91 acres of land situated at Park Estate, Pargana Pachwadun, Mussoorie, for the purpose of development of tourist activity. 

Since the land was required by the State urgently, the special powers under Sec 17(4) of the Act were invoked. The Petitioner made a request to the District Magistrate/Collector, Dehradun to prohibit the Tourism Department from taking possession of the said land. The Collector informed the Petitioner that the land in dispute had already been acquired for the Tourism Department, and it was not possible to further take any action to restrain the acquisition of the land of the Petitioner, and the Petitioner was entitled to seek appropriate legal remedy.

Contentions of the Petitioner

The Counsel contended that, as per the notification, the State proposed to acquire 172.91 acres of land situated in Park Estate, Mussoorie, District Dehradun, but the State acquired land which was part of village Rikholi though not mentioned in the notification. Thus, it was contended that the notification issued was void and cannot be made a basis for the acquisition of land. 

Further, learned counsel for the Petitioner argued that no khasra numbers (plot numbers) were mentioned in the notification, and the State had acquired an unidentifiable land, which was a different property as from the land in dispute.

Contentions of the Respondent

The Counsel contended that prior to the acquisition of land, a notice under Section 9 (Notice to persons interested) of the Land Acquisition Act was issued to the affected parties, where most parties had submitted their objections to the concerned officer. Further, the land allegedly acquired was not part of Village Rikholi, but was a part of Nagar Palika Parishad, Mussoorie, which was mentioned in the notice.

The Counsel contended that the land had been acquired and came into possession of the Tourism department in 1990. The petition was filed after a lapse of 26 years, and thus the petition was liable to be dismissed on the ground of laches.

Court’s Analysis

The Court observed that a clear description of the land proposed to be acquired by the State, was given in the Notification which was sufficient enough to locate the property and therefore, it cannot be said that the State had acquired an unidentifiable land. 

The Court further observed that, as per the contention of the Petitioner, if the land acquired by the State was distinct from the land specified in the notification, then the petitioner would not have any locus to challenge the notification, since the plea would be available to those persons whose lands were to be acquired and not to strangers to the acquisition. 

The Court referred to the case of Shanti Sports Club v. Union of India, which held that:

“Once the land is acquired by following due process of law, the same cannot be transferred by the landowner to another person and that any such transfer is void and is not binding on the State.”

The Court referred to the case of Tamil Nadu Housing Board, Chennai v. M. Meiyappan & Ors, which held that:

“If there is such negligence or omission on the part of the petitioner to assert his right, the High Court must refuse to invoke its extraordinary jurisdiction and grant relief to the writ petitioner.”

The Court further referred to the case of May George v. Special Tahsildar and others, which held that:

“Once land is vested in the State, it cannot be divested even if there has been some irregularity in the acquisition proceedings.”

Court’s Decision

The Court held that the Petitioner had no locus standi to challenge the notification, and there were laches and delays in filing the petition. The Petitioner failed to indicate the arbitrariness or illegality in the notifications. Further, the title and possession claimed by the Petitioner over the land in dispute cannot be decided in writ jurisdiction. Thus, the writ petition was dismissed. 


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